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Meeker wants Leffingwell to return campaign donations

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 by Austin Monitor

Place 1 City Council challenger Jason Meeker attacked incumbent Council Member Lee Leffingwell Tuesday for accepting campaign contributions from attorneys with the Armbrust & Brown firm, which represented Lincoln Properties in the lawsuit filed by Responsible Growth for Northcross against Lincoln and the City of Austin last year.


RG4N was trying to stop Wal-Mart from building a Supercenter at Northcross, which Lincoln is redeveloping. Meeker is RG4N’s spokesperson. Meeker says in his press release that Leffingwell received a total of contributed $9,300 from 16 lawyers at the firm. “It stinks and he needs to return the money,” said Meeker. 


Meeker does not allege any illegal conduct in giving or accepting the contributions, but says, twisting the facts, “How can he accept money from the very lawyers who were engaged in a lawsuit against thousands of Austin residents trying to defend their neighborhoods against irresponsible development?” 


The City of Austin and Lincoln won the lawsuit in December.


Leffingwell’s political consultant Mark Nathan responded, “Voting starts in less than three weeks and as of now the only known contributor to Jason Meeker is his own campaign treasurer, who it appears made an illegal corporate contribution to Mr. Meeker last week.  My advice to Mr. Meeker would be to put more focus on raising money for his own campaign and less on trying to get Lee to give his contributions back. I’d also suggest that Mr. Meeker re-allocate some of his time from attacking Lee to studying up on the issues, like compatibility standards or the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.”


Last week, the Austin Chronicle ran an ad supporting Meeker’s candidacy, paid for by Discount Electronics. Since the company is a corporation, the advertising appears to be illegal under Texas law. The Texas Election Code expressly prohibits corporations from making political contributions to candidates or making independent expenditures to aid in the election or defeat of a candidate. Meeker’s former campaign treasurer, Rick Culleton, owns Discount Electronics. ( See In Fact Daily, April 4, 2008.)


The reference to the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve relates to an email, forwarded by bicycle advocate Vin Chung, in which Meeker asks, “What is the BCP?” Certain portions of the BCP are open to bicycling and hiking. Some hiking and bicycling enthusiasts have advocated for more access to preserve land.


After a response from Chung deriding him for not knowing about the BCP, Meeker responded that he does know about the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve but was stymied by the acronym.

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